Multi-Stakeholder Insights: A Compendium on Countering Election Interference
In 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron launched the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace with the goal of addressing new cyberspace threats that could endanger citizens and infrastructure. Supporters of the Paris Call commit to working together to adopt responsible behaviours and secure cyberspace, based on a set of nine common principles. These principles act as a non-binding declaration and set a precedent as the largest-ever multi-stakeholder cybersecurity agreement.
On May 26, 2020, the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, announced that the Government of Canada would be one of the three leaders on Principle 3: Defend Electoral Processes, along with Microsoft and the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD). Principle 3 aims to strengthen our capacity to prevent malign interference by foreign actors aimed at undermining electoral processes through malicious cyber activities.
Throughout the remainder of 2020, the co-leads joined international and Canadian partners from government, industry, and civil society in a series of workshops. The aim was to share key observations and develop good practices to counter election interference as a means to strengthen their capacity to prevent malign cyber interference by foreign actors in electoral processes.
The observations shared during these workshops make up Multi-Stakeholder Insights: A Compendium on Countering Election Interference (the Compendium), a good practice guide to help build global expertise and understanding about effective ways to counter election interference. The Compendium combines key observations from the community into six key areas. The following is an overview of the observations from each area.
Improving multi-stakeholder information sharing
Rising cyber threats highlight the need to improve on information sharing within and between the public and private sectors, both nationally and internationally. By developing a shared language, improving on information-sharing channels and communicating continually about threats, threat actors and responses, we can improve our ability to identify and counter malicious cyber attacks and reduce their impact.
Foreign interference versus acceptable nation-state influence
While democracies around the world are increasingly working to prevent interference by malign foreign actors, the lack of a common framing for “foreign interference” makes it problematic for policy makers to develop standards and guidelines. By creating and agreeing to clear and globally accepted definitions for terms like “influence” and “interference,” democracies around the world will be better positioned to determine what is and what is not acceptable, while protecting core democratic values.
COVID-19 contingencies – countering election interference in a pandemic environment
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented opportunities for election interference, given the complexity of holding an election. Election officials must engage in extensive contingency planning by building trust, providing credible information, and implementing reliable technology. Because voting methods influence who votes, which in turn influences who governs, governments around the world should seek hybrid approaches, with a focus on ensuring the highest possible participation. Each approach has benefits and risks; the right approach will differ from country to country. For these reasons, solutions must be customized and include contingencies.
Interference in the information environment: mitigation and response
The Internet has provided people around the world with a virtually endless stream of information and provided malicious foreign and domestic actors with a host of new opportunities to spread disinformation. Governments, traditional media, social media platforms, academia, and civil society are all part of this information ecosystem, and they all have a role to play in countering electoral interference. Working together to provide timely and accurate information is key. Ultimately, citizen resilience is the best safeguard against these hostile actions, and citizens must be empowered with reliable information to hold individuals and institutions to account.
Defend, detect, and recover: countering the threat of interference in election infrastructure
The recent rise in disinformation campaigns targeting elections has highlighted the complexity and exposed the vulnerabilities of election infrastructure. Protecting this infrastructure is an essential part of countering foreign interference; critical steps must be taken before, during, and after election day to ensure systems are protected. Every aspect of election infrastructure has its own vulnerabilities and requires its own solution. By looking at the overall process as a continuous, circular life cycle as opposed to a linear process, insights can be incorporated back into the learning process. Over time, mitigation measures will improve and further protect elections.
Empowering citizens: understanding and building community resilience to counter the threat of election interference
Well-informed and engaged citizens are crucial to a stable and properly functioning democracy. Unfortunately, the distrust of mainstream news outlets coupled with the ever-growing problem of widespread disinformation on social media is eroding citizens’ faith in legitimate sources of information and threatens democracy itself. Building civic and digital literacy by giving people the tools they need to fact-check and check sources is key. By developing tangible suggestions, proactively sharing accurate information, and tailoring programs to specific communities, citizens can and will become the best defence against election interference and disinformation campaigns.
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